The way you fix plasterboard will depend on the surface you are fixing too. However, if you are fixing to timber, such as joists, or studwork, you have two main options:
- Nails – These are galvanised clout nails
- Drywall screws – These are a special type of screw used for fixing plasterboard.
If you have never fixed plasterboard before, then you might wonder which would be the best option.
These days, drywall screws are almost always the best choice. Plasterboard’s are much easier to install with screws. Plus, they give a far better fixing.
With clout nails, it is much more common for the heads to pop through the boards. This is particularly true for ceilings.
The only caveat to this, would be a tight area, where it is difficult to get in and screw. In this case you may opt for nails.
Another reason someone might choose nails, is because they are cheaper than screws. However, in most cases, this is a false economy, as it will take you far longer than screwing.
5 Reasons screws are better than nails for fitting plasterboard
Below you can see a few of the main reasons that drywall screws are a better option than clout nails:
Screwing is faster
Unless you are an older, more experienced plasterer, who learnt to fix plasterboard with nails, it is going to take you far longer nailing than screwing.
You will still find older guys on site, who learnt to nail boards as an apprentice. Over the years, they have developed considerable skill and speed when it comes to nailing boards. However, even then, it is likely they can’t go as fast as someone experienced at fitting with screws.
Also, if the person screwing is using collated screws and a screw gun, the person nailing has no chance. Using a screw gun is a game changer, it will allow you to fix boards extremely quickly, with very little hassle. The screws are loaded into the gun in a plastic strip. All you need to do to fix them, is apply pressure and push the trigger.
After a small amount of practice, you should be fixing screws at the perfect depth, without any misfires or jams in the gun. This means fixing an entire board will take 1-2 minutes. As opposed to manually nailing 15-20 individual nails.
Also, screw guns aren’t that expensive, especially if you’re doing a lot of boarding. You can see a great example of a good quality screw gun by clicking here
Installing with screws is easier than nails
We already discussed how easy it is to use a screw gun, but even a cordless drill is easier than hammering nails.
If you are fixing plasterboards to stud work, then depending on experience, screwing is only slightly easier. However, when it comes to boarding a ceiling, it is far more complicated when you are trying to nail.
Even fitting smaller boards it would be quite difficult for one person to fix to a ceiling with nails. In contrast, this would be much easier with screws, or a screw gun.
Obviously, if you have access to props, or even a board lift, this does change things slightly, but we can still go back to speed, where screws are far superior.
Screws give better fixings
Due to their design, screws give a better fixing in a couple of different ways. The first way they are superior is their coarse thread. This allows the screw to really pull the plasterboard tight to the timber.
It also bites into the wood and gives a solid fixing, that is harder to pull out than a nail. This is less important on walls, but it’s definitely crucial for plasterboards fitted to ceilings.
The second advantage of a drywall screw is the type of screw head. This is known as a bulge head, which is a type of countersink with a curved underside. The shape makes them ideal for soft materials, such as plasterboard.
The underside shape of the screw allows it to depress the surface, pulling flush or slightly below. This means drywall screws cause minimal damage to the paper face.
In contrast, clout nails have a flat head. In order for the nail head to sit below the surface it usually breaks the paper entirely. If you use these on a ceiling, the nail heads are far more likely to pull through the plasterboard, causing it to come away from the joists.
Less chance of damaging boards
A hammer can cause a lot of damage to a plasterboard. If you miss hit the nail you could easily dent the boards. In a worst-case scenario, you could even put the hammer right through it.
Someone with more experience is less likely to have this problem, but even skilled workers make the occasional mistake.
As well as damage from miss hitting nails, you can also cause issues with the vibration and force that the hammer exerts. For example, assume you are boarding some studwork. Stud walls are most often made from a 3×2. Often this is something like CLS, which is planed even further. Hitting this with a hammer repeatedly, can cause a lot of movement. As a result, this can have an effect on the fixings.
Less chance of injuring yourself
Let’s face it, building sites, and even DIY jobs, can come with a risk of injury. If you are screwing plasterboards, the risk that a screw, or the power tool is going to injure you is pretty small.
In comparison, holding small nails between your fingers and then swinging a hammer at them, does carry a considerable risk. Anyone who works with a hammer on a regular basis, will know this only too well. Even experienced trades such as carpenters, will still give their fingers a solid blow from time to time.
Now imagine an inexperienced DIY’er, balancing a plasterboard on his head, whilst he tries to hit a 30mm clout nail with a hammer. I’m sure you will agree, this is a recipe for disaster.
In my opinion, drywall screws are better than clout nails in almost every single way. There will be a small percentage of people who disagree. However, these are usually people who are slightly set in their ways. It may also be the case, that they have a huge level of experience and skill that most people don’t.
However, I think it is undeniable, that screws are the best option in the vast majority of cases.